Interview – Zack Loucks, Ye Olde Cycle Shoppe

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As I research the bikes that are featured on Bike-urious, Ye Olde Cycle Shoppe has proven to be a valuable source of information, thanks to the extensive library of vintage motorcycle road tests and advertisements. It’s run by Zack Loucks, so I thought I should hit him with the usual questions!

How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
I was on a minibike as soon as I could ride a pedal bike, around 5 years old. At the time my Dad was a mechanic and did a few extra jobs in the garage. I was a little guy, but I think it was a ’37 Chevy that he had fixed for someone who didn’t have the money for the repair and instead traded him a minibike. The old pull-start type with a metal plate that rubbed on the back tire for a brake. My brother and I rode that back and forth in our back yard, smashing into the fence and everything else. I still remember the Kermit the Frog riding style my little bro had, with his legs flailing out to the sides rather than resting them on the pegs.
Zack Loucks - Baby in a Helmet
Later we graduated to a Honda Trail 90, and then eventually dirt bikes with clutches. I grew up on dirt bikes, only getting a chance to ride about 1 week each summer when we visited our grandparents who had more space to ride, and where we kept the bikes.

I didn’t buy my first street bike until I was 21. A 1981 Suzuki GS450L which turned out to be a deer magnet. I creamed a deer on my way home from purchasing the bike – glad the guy included a helmet. Deer are a lot harder than they look.

What bikes do you currently own?
This hits a little below the belt at the moment. Everything in my garage is a basket case and will likely be sold off as parts, except for one:
• 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900 (early build hollow cam) – the only project I really plan on finishing
• 1980 Suzuki GS450E –café project
• 1994 Honda XR200 – the only bike I can ride at the moment
• 1973 Yamaha TY80 – resurrected by Saint Brucie, which my kids are learning on
Zack Loucks - Yamaha TY80 • 1976 Kawasaki KZ750 Twin
• 1974 Honda CB360
• 1971 Honda SL350
• 1977 Honda CB750A
My most recent completed project was a 1971 Bridgestone 175 Hurricane Scrambler, which I ended up trading Saint Brucie in return for Z1 head work.

Assume for a moment that money is no object, and importation laws aren’t a problem. What’s the next bike you’d buy, and what would you do with it?
I would hunt down whoever has an original prototype Norton Commando 961, built by Kenny Dreer, and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

One of Dreer's VR880's

One of Dreer’s VR880’s

Norton Commando 961 Sport - Right Side

What it became.

That bike had me by the balls from the first time I saw it. To me, it’s the two-wheeled Ferrari 250 California. I used to visit Kenny’s website every day just to listen to the sound files he uploaded. I downloaded his ringtone before I ever had a cell phone. Just to listen to it over and over on my computer. My mind was made up: I would have one someday. Then my dreams were crushed when his funds dried up and the project was put on hold. I remember being ecstatic when I heard another company had bought the rights and would pick up where Mr Dreer had left off, only to be disappointed by the changes that were made.

Anyone looking at the two would think I’m crazy and that they are the exact same bikes. But it was the little details that irked me. After all, the prototype is what I fell in love with. Changing the Buell-ish 6 spoke wheels to 5 spoke carbon rims seemed blasphemous to me, as well as replacing the gorgeous peashooter, long-can Norton mufflers for shorter reverse cone mufflers. Something in the exhaust note changed, too. I don’t know if it’s using an H-pipe vs Kenny’s version of having the two header pipes merge under the bike, or if it’s the change in timing, piston action, or a combination of it all. But the new one doesn’t sound like Kenny’s prototype did.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to have a new 961, but it would need some tweaking before I was completely satisfied with it.

What’s the most memorable motorcycle trip you’ve ever taken?
You know, I’ve had some fun times on motorcycles, but the one trip which has affected me the most was just a short day’s solo adventure on the little XR200 last spring. I live just below Grand Mesa National Forest, which has miles upon miles of trails, and hadn’t been on a dirt bike for any meaningful amount of time in two decades.
Zack Loucks - XR200 Off-Road Rear RocksSo, during a weekend when my wife and kids were away I took a day and spent it with the XR, a trail map, and a camelback. In hindsight I should have taken a buddy with me because I got stuck in the snow several times, and the wildlife was coming out of hibernation and hungry.Zack Loucks - XR200 Off-Road RearIt was such a different experience from riding the road, dodging people, trying to read the minds of other drivers whose faces are buried in their cell phones, etc. I only came across a couple others all day long, and they were on ATVs. I seemed to be the only bike out there. There were no speed traps or traffic jams. The issues I ran into were snow too deep, and “I wonder how much traction I’ll get through this river?”
Zack Loucks - XR200 Off-RoadIt changed me. So much so that I don’t really care to ride on the street anymore. I’ll finish the Z1 because of what it is, but any other future personal project will likely have knobby tires.

Do you listen to music while riding? If no, why not? If yes, what are some of your favorite tunes when you’re on your bike?
Ha! To be honest, I’ve never had the option. I enjoy smaller, bare-bones motorcycles without any kind of fairing that might contain a stereo, and I can’t stand to have ear buds in my head for very long. If I did, my music taste is wide. I’m an “anything but country” guy, and I mean anything – classical, rock, metal, Spanish guitar, mariachi, blues, techno, hip hop, rap. But for some reason country is nails on a chalkboard to me. If anyone cares, my Pandora station is public. It’s called Eclectic Evolution.

What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Open face ¾ sparkle helmet FTW! I have always hated wearing helmets, but I’ve been saved by them several times, so I don’t ride without one. Full face was always the way to go for protection, but I never did find one that was comfortable for my goofy head and didn’t restrict my vision – at least subconsciously. They have always reduced the fun factor by some measure in my riding experience. Sometimes to the point of “meh, I’ll just drive.”Zack Loucks - Open Face HelmetHowever, in order to go full hipster on my Bridgestone Scrambler, I bought a retro metallic flake open face helmet to act the part. And that did it. No anti-fog face shield that still fogs up; no reaching a glove under my chin to scratch my nose; I had peripheral vision; I could feel the wind; I could eat bugs! It’s almost as if I was actually riding a motorcycle again!

You have $25,000 to spend on anything in the world of motorcycles – 1 new bike, several old bikes, track days, a trip, you name it. How do you spend it?
Oh geez, where do you start? I’d love to add a zero and spend it all on shop equipment: lathes, mills, lifts… But if I’m restricted to $25k, and question #3 doesn’t pan out, I suppose I’d buy a new Norton 961 Commando and begin tweaking. Then again, I’ve got a bucket list of 90’s bikes I want from my teenage years. And I’d like a collection of old trials bikes from Bultaco, OSSA, and Maico.
OSSA MAR - Right SideI also have a goal of hitting every classic motorcycle event possible in one year. What great fun it would be to bounce from the Isle of Man to the Vintage Days in Ohio to the Bonneville Salt Flats to Vintage Races at Miller in Utah to the Barber Vintage Fest in Alabama and everything in between. This is an impossible question!

Where did you get the idea for Ye Olde Cycle Shoppe?
My only worthwhile ideas always seem to stem from some sort of frustration. In this case I was frustrated with trying to find good reliable information on a project bike I was working on. I could find some current info, but I wanted the original stuff like road tests so I’d have a benchmark to compare my bike to what it was like brand new. There were a few people selling road tests on ebay, so I bought one. Then it hit me: “There should be a library of this stuff online that is free for everyone to access so we don’t all have to keep a garage full of old magazines on hand.”

It takes a long time to thumb through a pile of magazines when you’re looking for something specific. And that pile is taking up space that could be another motorcycle. Which would you rather have? Now we all have the same magazine collection and all we need to do is type into a search box. Shazam! Here’s the 1968 BSA Rocket 3 road test you were looking for, sir.

It has been flattering to watch Ye Olde Cycle Shoppe become a source of reference for so many forums, clubs, and other motorcycle sites like yours. I’m glad it’s serving a purpose.
YOCS Logo

How can someone send road tests/magazine collections to you for the greater good?
I would really like to streamline this process sometime this year so the site becomes open to contributors. Until then, please email me at slowpoke@yeoldecycleshoppe.com to let me know what you have, to get my shipping address, or for guidelines on scanning and posting them yourself.

If you’d like to send me magazines I will gladly accept them and pay for shipping as well as your time spent prepping them for shipment. Right now I would be looking for anything older than 1970. I have already gone through a whole collection of Cycle mags from the late 60s to mid 80s that was mostly complete, and I currently have a complete collection of Cycle World from 1970 to 2011. So anything older than 1970, or different publications, like Britain’s “The MotorCycle” would be most useful.
Zack Loucks - Cycle World Magazines
Let me follow this up by saying 2015 was an attention deficit year for me. Way too many distractions. YOCS will have much more of my attention going forward. Expect some content overload this year.

What do you expect from the future of motorcycling, good or bad?
I suppose defining good or bad comes from your point of view. Interesting is certain though, and the Industrial Designer in me finds it exciting. We are full swing in a new wild west of the motorcycling world where new motorcycles are losing their personality, enthusiasts are seeking out that personality in older motorcycles, and creative garage based builders are rising up everywhere. A couple years ago at the Barber Vintage Festival I was captivated by a bike called Bucephalus by Loaded Gun Customs.
Bucephalus - Triumph Bonneville Custom - Right SideThe frame was laser cut plate which sandwiched aluminum blocks for rigidity and used the engine as a stressed member. And the engine was from an old Triumph. This opens huge potential for creativity in the vintage world because you’re not restricted to OEM frame geometry. You can dial in whatever kind of bike you want and build around any engine you have. I don’t know if the builder of Bucephalus realizes what he’s discovered, or if bikers and builders in general realize it yet. I think there is massive potential lurking in this style of build. You could even create kits that ship flat on a pallet that the customer can then assemble in his own garage. Who wouldn’t love to do that?! So much cooler than Ikea shelves!

There are some good signs from the manufacturers too. Like Kawasaki’s new turbocharged H2 insanity machine. That’s the attitude that brought us the original Z1 and blew open the world of superbikes.
Restored Kawasaki Z1 - Right SideAnd then there’s Harley-Davidson, the last company on earth you’d expect to even show interest in electric motorcycles, and they tease us with the LiveWire. I want one. Bad. Add it to my answer on #7. I love that they take the Harley approach to sound and rather than pipe in some fake exhaust noise, they make things intentionally fit a little too tight or too loose in order to create more mechanical noise. Think of the possibilities with electric bikes: Teslas, for example, can be upgraded via new software. I wouldn’t want much computer stuff going on in a motorcycle, but if I could have an 80hp motorcycle that could be dialed down to say, 40hp for commuting or a longer ride where I know the speeds will be lower and could use more range; or dialed down to 25hp when my kids want to learn on a bigger bike and as their skills progress they can earn more power…sorry, brainstorming mode has taken over – I think you get the idea.

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